by Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: July 2004
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
CATEGORY: Angst, romance, UST, AU, Crossover: West Wing
WARNING: Language, discussion of past torture
SPOILERS: Major spoilers for The Lost City and New Order
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Season Eight. Gates of War series, follows The Lost City Missing Scenes. Previous stories in this series are archived at http://buckeyebelle.tripod.com/sg1/sg1index.html
SUMMARY: In a collection of missing scenes from New Order, SG-1 returns home to find that things have changed.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: If you have not seen the Lost City and New Order, or at least read the transcripts, this will make very little sense.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc.
All West Wing characters are the property of John Wells Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television Production Inc., and NBC TV
This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
(At the SGC)
"Dr. Weir, we are receiving a transmission from the Asgard."
Elizabeth Weir hurried to the control room. "This is Dr. Weir."
"This is Thor. I have four people here who would like to come home."
A slow grin spread across her face. "We'd like to have them home, whenever you're ready."
There was a bright flash in the control room. She stared through the windows for a few seconds, taking in the sight of Daniel and Teal'c standing guard beside O'Neill and Carter. Both Air Force officers looked like they had been through the wringer, but they were doing well enough to be standing on their own. She spoke into the microphone, "We have them, Thor. Whatever you did, thank you."
"No, Doctor, it is I who am in your debt. Once again, the Tau'ri have saved the Asgard. For now, I regret that I must leave orbit and return home immediately. There is much to be done and I do not have time for a full explanation. We will speak of this at length, later, but for now--know that you welcome home true heroes."
Weir said, "I already knew that, Supreme Commander. Have a safe journey home."
"Thank you, Doctor. For now, farewell."
Weir handed the microphone back to Sgt. Davis and took the stairs two at a time. Even so, Ferretti, Dixon and Griff and a crowd of people from their teams had beaten her down there and a large, noisy welcome-home was in progress. Weir caught a glimpse of the haunted look in Carter's eyes, and wondered how she had managed seven years of all this testosterone. She put two fingers in her mouth and let out a shrill, piercing whistle that could flag down a New York cabbie two blocks away across six lanes of traffic. The whistle echoed around the cavernous gate room and everyone fell completely silent and turned around to look at her.
"Back off and give the people some air!" she scolded. "SG-1, to the infirmary. There'll be plenty of time for a big welcome after debrief."
Sam shot Elizabeth a grateful look as the crowd broke up and they started to the infirmary. Jack asked, "Where's Jamie?"
Weir wasn't surprised that his first thought was of his son. "Jonathan and Sirikat have been looking after him. They're most likely at your house. Would you like me to get hold of them and have them come up while you're in medical?"
"Yes. Thank you."
The post-mission exam was long and tiring for both O'Neill and Carter. Dr. Brightman agreed to let them go to their own quarters rather than stay in the infirmary, but she wanted them to stay on base that night. After what seemed like hundreds of needle sticks, she let them go, and they made a hasty escape before she had a chance to change her mind.
There were a crowd of young people in the hallway when they got out. Jonathan and Jamie, Sirikat and Cassie Fraiser, Nancy, Lydia and Alvin. The whole gang had been at Jonathan's when Weir had called with the good news.
Jamie started yelling, "Daddy, Daddy!" As soon as he saw Jack through the infirmary doors. He wriggled out of Sirikat's arms and pelted the short distance between them as fast as his little feet would carry him.
Jack scooped him up and held him, and for the first time it really sank in that he was home, safe and alive against all expectations. One more time, amazingly, the SG-1 luck had held. "Jamie, son."
"I missed you, Daddy."
"Missed you too, squirt," he replied around the huge lump in his throat.
Cassie and Sirikat both hugged Jack at once, tears of joy running down their faces. Cassie kissed his cheek--she could do that now, standing on tiptoe--then folded Sam in her arms. "Welcome home." She could feel Sam trembling and kept her arm around her.
Jack caught Jonathan's eye and nodded a silent thanks. His brother passed it off with a grin and said, "We kept the lights on for ya."
"Yeah, I figured. Is there any food left in my house?"
Jonathan met Jack's easy, bantering tone. "'Left?' There were only three bottles of Guinness and one slice of pizza in your fridge when we got there."
"There better still be three bottles of Guinness in there, too," Jack volleyed back over Sirikat's head, drawing snickers from the rest of the kids as they trooped down the hall toward the elevator. Neither he nor Jamie seemed to be in any hurry to let go of each other.
Jonathan said, "I'd better get this mob home. Cassie, are you coming or staying?"
"You guys go ahead. I'm going to hang with Sam for a while." Cassie's arm stayed firmly around Sam. It looked like she was holding onto her "aunt" for support, rather than the other way around.
Sirikat thought of Jamie's car seat and went topside with them to collect it.
After the debriefing, there was a short gathering in the commissary, but the word had got around that the doctor wanted O'Neill and Carter to take it easy.
Daniel saw Carter looking shaky and said, "Jack, Sirikat and Cassie took Jamie to your quarters. Why don't you take Sam up there, and Teal'c and I will get some dinner for all of us."
O'Neill asked, "Sam, can you make it? Maybe you ought to be in the infirmary."
"Sir, I'm fine. I'm just tired and hungry."
From the look in Carter's eyes, O'Neill didn't believe she was anywhere near fine. Fifth had obviously put her through hell, but there wasn't a mark on her, so he had no idea what had been done to her. She had skimmed over the details in the debriefing, and Weir had told her that could wait for her written report.
He still hadn't quite wrapped his head around the fact that he had been in stasis for several weeks, while everyone else had been going 24/7 to get him home. He remembered poking his head in the Ancients' memory device, then waking up on the Daniel Jackson. Everything in between was a blur at best, and the whole time that he had been frozen simply didn't exist for him. But if he knew Carter, between trying to figure out how to defrost him and taking care of Jamie, she hadn't been eating or sleeping the way she should have. That couldn't have made it any easier when she was fighting to survive her captivity.
"OK, Carter," he replied. He decided not to pressure her about it, just to make sure she ate a square meal and then went straight to her quarters. He knew she would write her mission report tomorrow, and after he saw it he'd have more of an idea what had happened to her.
Carter sat on his bed between Cassie and Sirikat. O'Neill had no sooner settled into his desk chair than Jamie climbed up onto his lap, and it would have been easier to remove a barnacle. Losing people he loved was Jamie's worst nightmare, after he had witnessed his mother's murder. They would just have to work through it. For now, though, O'Neill needed to hold Jamie just as much as the little fellow needed to be held.
Cassie and Sirikat looked tired and worn as well. He felt a stab of guilt for the pain he had caused them, but what he had done had saved them, and he would gladly do it all again for that.
Daniel and Teal'c arrived with a cart of food. Cookie had piled it high and Jack's stomach growled loudly when he smelled lasagna. Jamie giggled and Jack ruffled his hair before examining the cart.
Jamie was picky about garden salads, but he would eat vegetable sticks with ranch dip. Teal'c had picked up a whole carrot and a stalk of celery. Sirikat sliced them into sticks for him. Cassie distributed coffee, soda and spring water.
Daniel and Teal'c sat on the floor to eat. Sha're materialized next to Daniel, and no one but Cassie so much as blinked. The rest of them were used to her popping in and out. Cassie jumped and let out a little scream when the Abydonian woman appeared two feet away from her, but when everyone cracked up laughing she joined in.
They were crowded into the small room like a can full of sardines, but it was a room full of family and that was what they all needed. What could so easily have been a wake for any or all of them was instead a feast of thanksgiving.
They caught O'Neill up to speed on everything that had happened while he had been frozen. It was overwhelming to realize that so many people had been working to save him, not just there at the SGC but the Free Jaffa as well.
Daniel reported, "Kinsey's out of a job."
"Really?! How did that happen?"
"He panicked when Anubis attacked and tried to bug out to the Alpha Site. This, right after we lost a carrier group," Daniel explained in disgust.
O'Neill hadn't known about that. Kinsey paled to insignificance in comparison. "Oh, God. Which carrier?"
"The Nimitz. They never had a chance."
"The whole carrier group?"
Daniel nodded grimly.
Cassie said, "I know it was more people than 9/11."
Jack explained, "Yeah, you would have had a couple of guided missile cruisers, a destroyer or two, frigates, a supply ship and a couple of subs. If the subs weren't running on the surface--?"
Sam said, "The mother ship's sensors were able to get a lock on them. The whole engagement was less than five minutes."
Sirikat had been floored by the number of dead. She knew there were six billion Tau'ri, but six billion was an unimaginable number. It was only when Dr. Weir had compared the number of people killed in the attack on the carrier group to the population of Colorado Springs and she had imagined that percentage of the town's houses suddenly going dark that Sirikat had understood how many people had been massacred. She said, "We expect cowardly attacks like that from the Goa'uld, of course, but so many hundreds of people...that would only have been the beginning had you not stopped him when you did. General Hammond was prepared to take Prometheus and ram him. It seemed the only way to stop him."
O'Neill replied, "It sounds like I cut it way too close."
"Whatever those things were that you summoned, you had to have complete control of them before you let them go. That was not to be rushed, or the consequences could have been as terrible as Anubis himself." Sirikat's voice betrayed her terror of the deadly swarm.
A memory surfaced, of thousands of tiny points of malevolent voracious hunger. He had controlled those things. Barely. "I remember that now. They're not getting out...?"
Sirikat assured him, "You confined the demons and restored the wards. I made sure."
O'Neill knew that Sirikat was likely to refer to anything that she didn't understand as a demon--Anubis' super soldiers qualified, although she admitted that there didn't seem to be anything magical or otherworldly about them. But in this case, he was convinced that the label was warranted. "The Ancients were into some bad stuff," he replied.
"No kidding." Sam told him about the Ancient outpost that Bra'tac's people had found during the desperate scramble to find a way to rescue him. It had been a medical research facility and the experimental subjects had been convicts. Nothing found there had improved her opinion of the Ancients.
"Teal'c, we need to talk. I owe Bra'tac big time."
Teal'c said, "On the contrary, O'Neill. The obligations of friendship run deep. Living up to them is an honor, and its own reward. Otherwise the accounting becomes far too complicated. And do you not remember saving Master Bra'tac's life aboard the tel'tac?"
He shook his head. "I remember something about a star map, I think."
"That was on Proklarush Taonas," Daniel said. "The lava planet?"
Jack shook his head, he didn't remember anything about lava.
"OK, there was an outpost there. While we were down there, Bra'tac got into it with a Jaffa who turned out to be one of Anubis' spies. He killed the guy but got himself stabbed in the process. You healed him, just like we've seen Sirikat do with her crystals. Only you didn't have a crystal, and it only took you a minute or so to completely heal him. There wasn't even a scar left. The both of you were just about knocked flat for a couple of minutes, but that was all."
Sirikat said, "What you describe is pure will made reality without the need for spells or rituals or focusing crystals. This...not unheard of on Daltregon, but very rare, and most often the witches who did such things burned themselves to ashes doing it. Do you still have such power?"
"I have no idea," Jack replied, more than a little frightened by the idea that he might. He didn't want to come out of this as some kind of comic book superhero, with fantastic powers that would set him apart from everyone and everything that he knew.
Daniel reminded him, "Thor said you'll gradually remember what happened after you took the download. Maybe then you'll understand what you can or can't do."
Jack poked at his food. "He didn't really get it out this time, did he?"
"I doubt it, Jack. The download had pretty much unpacked itself by the time you went in the stasis pod. It was more like Thor stabilized things so that you could access your real memories, but the Ancient stuff is probably pretty much still in there."
"See, Daniel, I don't like that."
"Nobody else does either, but there was nothing we could do about it."
"Yeah," Jack said. He had been thinking the whole thing was over. Over, capital O. But, apparently it wasn't. Healing people was cool, saving Bra'tac's life was way beyond cool. But that wasn't all there was to it.
To his surprise, it was Teal'c who spoke up. "We will say nothing of this to anyone," he said. "Too much is unsettled. It is better if those who have acted against us in the past have no reason to become curious."
Jack nodded, but gave Teal'c a measuring look. There were more differences than just the hair. Teal'c seemed more open, more sure of himself. His friend only bowed his head serenely and got back to eating his supper. And then Jack was distracted telling Jamie to eat his food instead of playing with it.
After they finished eating, Daniel gathered the dishes and silverware to return to the kitchen. Teal'c left when he did. Cassie gave Jack another big hug. "Sam, I'll walk you to your quarters," she offered.
"OK," Sam smiled. "I want to hear all about Dominic."
Sirikat said, "I take Jaime to my room so you can rest." But when she held out her arms to the boy, he cried and latched onto Jack like a little bulldog.
Jack held him tight and comforted him. "Take it easy, kiddo. You like to camp out with Sirikat."
"Don't go away again!" Jamie howled.
Jack looked up. "Has this been going on the whole time?"
Sam was unwilling to upset him, but Jamie was his son. She said, "It started after we got back without you, but ever since then, yeah."
Jack nodded. "Jamie, listen up, OK? I'm back now. It's gonna be all right. You can stay right here tonight."
Sam took the time for one long look at Jack before she and Cassie went to her quarters. She had to assure herself that he really was there, alive and whole and himself. It was so easy to suspect this was all another of Fifth's illusions. She wondered if she would ever be sure again that the world she saw around her was real.
Jack found Sam in her lab, back to working on reverse-engineering some of the things they had brought back with them from the Ancient outposts. He perched on a counter top and picked up a flat metal disk. "So what's this?"
She looked up and a warm smile spread across her face. "I think it's a bathtub stopper, sir," she grinned. She hadn't realized until just now how much she had missed having him pop in for no reason other than to annoy her while she was working.
"Really?" He turned it on edge and stared at it. It could be a bathtub stopper, for all he knew. If all that Ancient knowledge really was still there, he didn't know how to access it. And that was a huge relief.
Sam laughed. "I have no clue what it is," she admitted.
"Just got out of a meeting with Dr. Weir. She's, uh, leaving."
Carter shot him an incredulous look. "Are you serious? They're shaking things up again?"
"'Fraid so. She's taking charge of the Antarctic outpost."
"Is General Hammond coming back, sir?"
"Nope, and it's Lieutenant General. Or it will be. He's going to be in charge of the whole thing--the SGC, the B-303 program, Area 51, all of it."
Sam was torn between happiness for General Hammond, and concern for the SGC.
"They've offered the job to me. They want to promote me and put me in charge."
"That's logical," Sam replied.
"I don't know if I should do it," he said, still staring at the metal disk.
Sam's voice was carefully neutral. "Why not?"
"I wasn't expecting to get out of that one," he said, with surprisingly more honesty than she had expected. "Let's just say it was a long flight back here. I figured out exactly what I want out of life, and I can't have that as long as I'm in the Air Force."
Sam smiled. "As long as both of us are in the Air Force."
"No way you're retiring, Sam, we need you. I should be the one, just like we planned."
Sam turned her chair around to face him. "If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be having this conversation," she said. "If you'd retired when we first talked about it...we could both be dead right now. There would have been no one to stop Anubis and he could have wiped us all out."
"I know." Jack put the disk down.
"They say if you want to make God laugh, just make plans," Sam said.
"Do you want out?"
Jack could see in her eyes, for her that was the bottom line. Whatever decision he made, she would support him. "I want...us. When I drop my kid off at day care every morning, I want not to scare the hell out of him that I'm not coming back. But you're right. If I hadn't been doing my job we'd all be dead right now, so what does it matter what I want?"
"I think when the time comes to leave, you won't have to ask me. You'll know," Sam finally said. "When the time comes, I'll be right here waiting for you."
"Maybe you're right about that. I need to think about it some more."
"What did Teal'c and Daniel say?"
"Dunno, I haven't told them yet."
She smiled that he had come to her first. "Why don't we all sit down and talk it out?"
"First, Sam, I want to know what the hell happened to you out there. Because let me tell you, my imagination is goin' crazy."
"Fifth wanted revenge on me for lying to him. He didn't do any physical damage. That wasn't it. He used his illusions to put me through a lot of things...most of them were pretty nasty but the last one was the worst. He pretended to be you. He made me think we were out of the Air Force, married, living up at your cabin. It was--for the first little while I was happy. I didn't even question it because I wanted so badly for it to be real."
"God, talk about your Stepford wives!"
"Yeah. But it didn't take long before little things started adding up. I've never seen your cabin, for one thing, so he just had to make it up from the things you've told me and the few pictures I've seen and he guessed at the rest. I was suspicious but what finally gave it away was, he threw a temper tantrum. Now you've got a temper, but...it just wasn't right. I knew it was him."
"I'm gonna kill that no good bug, I swear."
"Not if I see him first," Carter replied, and the cold hatred in her voice was something new. She could kill in a heartbeat if she had to, but that was part of the job, not part of who she was. He'd never seen her actually want anyone torn-limb-from-limb-dead before--except, maybe, Seth. But she'd killed Seth in the heat of the moment, not premeditated.
"It must have been god-awful. He sure made your shit list, anyhow."
"I keep looking around for little inaccuracies to see if this is real or more illusions. I don't know how I'll ever get rid of my doubts about that. I'm going to spend the rest of my life wondering if I'll wake up back on that bug ship again with him staring at me."
"Whoa. Been there, done that, don't want the damn tee shirt. I don't know how long I wondered if I was just dreamin' everything and I was gonna wake up in Ba'al's sarcophagus again any minute. I still do, sometimes, but now it's maybe once a month or so--not every day. It gets better, Carter, take it from somebody who knows. You will put it behind you. Give yourself time."
Carter looked up. Every once in a while, Jack did something to completely surprise the hell out of her. He never talked about Ba'al. That he had let down his carefully constructed defenses and opened up to her to reassure her with the voice of experience hit her hard. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. "OK," she said simply, after a time.
"Come on. Let's find the guys and figure out what I'm gonna do about this job offer. I still don't know if I want to work for someone dumb enough to make me a general, though."
Sam smacked him lightly on the arm. "There's nobody who deserves it more, and you know it!" She said. "Whatever you decide, do you have any idea how proud of you I am? Not just me, all of us!"
He grinned in spite of himself. Hearing this woman tell him that she was proud of him was the greatest honor he could ever hope to achieve. "I did tell Dr. Weir it was on my list," he admitted.
"List? What list?"
"She kind of let on that I could call in a lot of markers and I told her being promoted was one of the things on my list."
Her smile turned into a full fledged, ear to ear grin that lit up her eyes. "Really? What else is on it?"
Not that there was an actual list...but if there was, he knew what he'd ask for. He grinned back, thinking he would tell her if one of the markers he called in actually landed in his hand. "Just...stuff," he said.
She didn't press the point. It was enough that they were laughing and carrying on together when a few days ago everything had seemed so dark and hopeless. Change was in the air and she felt somehow that it was going to be a good change.
Jack O'Neill made sure his uniform was in order. He hated class A's. Class A's were an overdone business suit and he hated business suits. But you didn't show up at the White House wearing BDUs. Not even when the President told you he'd see you on the Q.T. at 2200 hours.
O'Neill gulped hard. He'd taken a lot of risks in his career. He enjoyed being a maverick and raising hell. But this was big, even for him. He was about to give the President of the United States an ultimatum. When you played a game of poker in that rarefied atmosphere, it was always winner takes it all. And he knew damn well he would only win if Jedidiah Bartlet decided to let him win.
He called the concierge desk and asked them to get him a cab, then went down to the lobby to wait for it.
Security was every bit as stringent as he had hoped it would be. By the time everyone was satisfied that he was indeed Col. Jack O'Neill, it was 2145h. He waited uncomfortably in a reception area until a young African-American man collected him. "The President will see you now."
He nodded his thanks and followed the young man down a corridor which led directly to the Oval Office. Not much intimidated Jack O'Neill, but this building did. It symbolized too much for anyone who wore his uniform to take it lightly.
Charlie announced him, "Col. O'Neill, Mr. President."
"Thank you, Charlie. Could you shut the door, please."
O'Neill stood at attention until the President acknowledged him. His desk was covered by neat stacks of paperwork. O'Neill bet he didn't have to requisition paper clips or anything like that. Those were probably documents that could affect millions of people with the stroke of a pen.
Bartlet motioned him to a chair. "Have a seat, Jack. Why did you need to see me?"
Jack sat down. "First, sir, I want to thank you for considering me for a promotion. I never expected to get that star, and it means a lot."
"I believe I hear a 'but' coming up."
"Yes, sir. Mr. President, I'm in a situation and the only way I can see out of it is to retire from the Air Force, effective immediately."
Bartlet leaned back in his chair and O'Neill wished he knew if the expression in the older man's eyes was a grin or a scowl. "So Kinsey wasn't just whistling in the wind about you and Major Carter."
"Yes, sir--I mean, no, sir--Mr. President, Major Carter is an exemplary officer and absolutely nothing against regulations has ever happened between us."
"Any fool can see there's something going on," Bartlet said.
O'Neill didn't flinch. "With all due respect, no, sir. We decided a long time ago that as long as we were both in the Air Force, nothing was going to happen, and it hasn't. Absolutely nothing that either of us felt has prevented us from doing our duty. Nothing, sir."
"And you've decided it's time for something to happen, so you're leaving the Air Force."
"If...I have to, Mr. President."
Bartlet burst out laughing. "Son, you just cost me $50."
"I don't understand, sir."
"Three years ago, Leo McGarry bet me $50 that you'd be in here one of these days asking me to waive the fraternization regulations. I took that bet because I figured you'd just wait until you retired. When you weren't in here arguing about it after the Vice President resigned and I asked you to stay on, I thought I'd get to keep my money." He took a file folder out of his desk drawer and sure enough, there was a fifty dollar bill clipped to it. He laid the bill on his desk and signed and dated a letter that had been in the folder.
"You knew--" Jack felt like a fish on a hook and figured he probably looked like one, too.
Bartlet said, "When I told you any fool could see what was going on, I didn't mean that anything illicit was going on. I'm waiving the fraternization regulations for the two of you. Keep it discreet, but if Kinsey or anyone like him gets pictures and tries to give you any trouble, I have your back. I have too much evidence of your and Major Carter's professionalism to believe I'll ever regret it. I'll merely be asking General Hammond to write her performance reviews from now on."
"Thank you, Mr. President."
"Jack," Bartlet said, very seriously, "The entire world ought to be thanking you. Now--I think you've got a discussion to have with a certain lady and I wish you all the luck in the world with that."
"Yes, sir! Thank you, Mr. President!"
Jack stood and came to attention until the President dismissed him, still grinning and shaking his head. As soon as the door closed behind him, Bartlet reached for his phone. "Leo! Come in here a minute. You're fifty dollars richer."
In his office nearby, McGarry leaned back in his chair and laughed. "He told you he'd resign?"
"He did," Bartlet admitted.
McGarry very rarely got the opportunity to crow at Bartlet's expense. "I hate to say I told you so, Mr. President, but I told you so!"
O'Neill didn't hear the two men laughing as Charlie showed him out. He was too busy trying to think how best to break the news to that certain lady.
IV: One Thousand Blessings
Sam Carter sighed in appreciation of the air conditioned lobby of the Georgetown Suites. She had spent the afternoon shopping and catching up with some old friends from the Pentagon. Summer in DC was just like she remembered from when she had been stationed here--hot and humid!
She balanced a stack of shopping bags and packages as she stopped at the front desk to check for messages. She spotted Daniel and Teal'c across the lobby. They were on their way out, but they detoured to help her with her purchases.
They were booked into a townhouse suite, not the usual military accommodations but the whole town was booked solid, thanks to a dozen conventions taking place at once. None of them were complaining, the suite was really nice. They had insisted that Jack take the master bedroom, since it was his party. Daniel and Teal'c shared the other bedroom, and Sam, Sirikat and Jamie had the sofa-beds downstairs. She piled her purchases on a sofa for now. "Guys, thanks for helping me with that!"
"No problem," Daniel grinned. "We'll be at the Smithsonian, and I have my cell if you need us. Have you seen Jack?"
"Not since he left for the Pentagon this morning. He hadn't got back when I went shopping with Martina and Sue."
Sirikat looked up from the Hot Wheels cars that she and Jamie were racing along the carpet. "He said he probably will be tied up in meetings all day."
"We'll be back in time to get ready for the ceremony," Daniel said.
"Have a good time, guys."
Sirikat said, "I take Jamie to the swimming pool, Sam."
"OK! Don't forget his sunscreen."
Sirikat neatly caught the bottle. The two of them got into their bathing suits and headed for the pool.
Sam put her feet up for a little while, then took the time to lay out her class-A's for Jack's promotion and the reception, then she packed most of the things she'd bought in a duffel bag for the flight home tomorrow evening. She put a couple of dresses in her garment bag, but everything else could safely go in the duffel. After that, she got out her computer and checked her email.
Just as she was finishing that, she heard the door open. It was Jack, and he had apparently found time for some shopping as well. He put his bags in a chair by the door and said, "Hey, you're here. I thought you were going to be out shopping with your friends all day."
"Sue had a meeting, so we called it a day a little earlier than we'd planned," she explained.
"Where are Sirikat and Jamie?"
"She took him swimming a little while ago."
"Was he OK with me being gone?"
"I think so. She's good about keeping him distracted. She's going to be a good mom, she really loves kids."
"God. Don't remind me."
Sam remembered then that Sirikat had said it was a matter of months until it would be time for her to spawn. "She was afraid her season would come before we got you back. She wants you to help her choose her consorts."
"Believe me, they'll treat her right after I get done scaring the crap out of them," he said.
Sam believed that. And as if Jack weren't enough to terrify them, her prospective suitors would also have to deal with Vanira, Kat's human mother Shaneska, and Bra'tac besides. She had no doubt whatsoever that Sirikat's consorts would be good to her. They'd be in fear of their lives to do anything else!
Jack sat down across from her. They had the suite to themselves, there was no time like the present. "Sam, I--something's happened, we need to talk. Where are Teal'c and Danny?"
She looked up, expecting bad news, but it clearly wasn't. And he had called her "Sam," not "Carter." She said, "They went to the Smithsonian. What's up?"
"I-here, read this."
She took the folded sheet of paper from him and opened it. Her eyes widened as she saw the Presidential letterhead. Her lips parted as she read the document. "Oh, my God. Jack, what did you do--?"
His hand covered hers. "I decided I was going to find out how bad President Bartlet wanted me not to retire. We've waited long enough, Sam."
Sam nodded. Although he made light of it, she knew what this promotion meant to Jack. Still, he had been willing to give it all up so that they could be together. Tears of joy filled her eyes and she almost knocked over her chair getting up to hug him. "What exactly does this mean?"
"All he asked is that we keep it low-key. But nobody can give us any trouble if it does get out."
"I can't believe this!" Sam Carter didn't squeal, but that was close.
"Neither could I," Jack admitted. "He and McGarry had a bet on us!"
"Right after the zatarc test, Leo McGarry bet the President fifty bucks that I'd ask for a waiver of the regulations. He already had this typed out--that's why the date is hand-written. There was a fifty-dollar bill clipped to the file folder."
Sam turned fire-engine red and wondered how she was going to look either the President or the Chief of Staff in the eye at the reception tonight. She wondered if they thought she'd slept her way up the ladder. Nasty rumors like that went around about all female officers to one extent or another. If that was what they believed of her, she knew her career wouldn't go any further. But she found that possibility didn't upset her anywhere nearly as much as she would have thought before this afternoon. If she had been given the choice between career advancement and a life with Jack, there would have been no choice at all. She too was willing to give all that up for the chance to be with him. The long weeks that he had been in stasis had clarified that for her. She didn't care what they thought of her, not while Jack was in her arms.
She looked up and his expression took her breath away. They were so used to hiding what they felt behind walls of duty and responsibility, but now there were no more walls. There was only love. She saw her forever in his eyes. Jack's hand curved around the back of her head, fingers combing through her hair. For the first time in days she felt grounded, safe, home. Both of them were shaking as their lips met. No alien influences, no memory stamps, no ranks, no regulations, just the two of them, Jack and Sam.
At first the kiss was tender, but it deepened quickly, and ended only when they absolutely had to breathe. Jack held her tight. "I love you, Sam, so much. I think I have since the first time I saw you."
She smiled, "I love you too."
They found their way to one of the sofas and Sam snuggled in his arms. "Jack, what happens now?"
"Whatever you want," he said, serious for once. "This crazy life, we know each other better than a couple of people who've been married for seven years--but, at the same time, there are so many things we've never talked about because we couldn't. Things that were all on the other side of that line we swore we wouldn't cross as long as the regulations were there. And you need time to get over what Fifth did to you before you make any more big changes in your life right now."
Sam nodded. "You're probably going to think I'm old-fashioned, but I don't ever intend to fall in love again. I want to do this right."
"Pretty old-fashioned myself about some things," he smiled.
She wasn't surprised that they were on the same page with that, just as with so many other things. For the next hour they sat together, talking about favorite movies and childhood pets and summer jobs they'd had in high school. That afternoon could have lasted forever, as far as they were concerned. All too soon, though, they had to get ready for Jack's promotion ceremony and the reception to follow.
Daniel and Teal'c returned not too much later. Teal'c had been fascinated by the museum. Daniel was telling him that there was a lot more than they had seen. It took several days to really appreciate the Smithsonian. A couple of hours hadn't even been time to hit the highlights.
Sirikat shooed the men upstairs so that she and Sam could change and get Jamie all polished up. Sirikat hadn't had time to have Daltregonian finery made up, and she had long since outgrown the formal wear that she had brought with her so long ago. She had found a blue silk gown with beaded embroidery on the bodice, similar in style if not in fabric. Sam helped her with her hair. "Sirikat, honey, you're not a little girl anymore. You're going to break a lot of hearts when you walk into the room."
She settled the necklace of clan sigils around her neck, her mark of office as the war chief of all the tribes. Small crystals set into many of the sigils sparkled and picked up the blue of her gown. Sam held up a mirror. "You've grown up to be a beautiful woman."
Sirikat smiled a little shyly. She still felt much more at home with a sword in her hand, or during more blessed times romping in the back yard with Jamie. "You are the beautiful one, Sam. Something happened."
Sam told her about the president's waiver of the regulations. Sirikat did squeal, very loudly, and threw her arms around Sam. "Congratulations! May the gods grant you both one thousand blessings."
"I have Jack," Sam said. "That's nine hundred and ninety-nine blessings right there."
The ceremony was held at the White House instead of the Pentagon. That was unusual, but then it wasn't every day that the nation honored someone who had literally saved the world.
Sam and the rest of SG-1 watched proudly as the President himself swore in O'Neill. Abby Bartlet helped Jamie hold the Bible. It had turned out that there was a funny story behind Abby's presence at the ceremony. Ordinarily she wasn't privy to top secret information like the Stargate Program. Thor, however, had beamed into the Oval Office just after the evacuation of Kalimar to report in person, believing that the President was alone. He had scared the living hell out of Abby, who had just stepped in at the same time. After a very embarrassed Asgard had explained himself, she had been a good sport about it. So had the flood of Secret Service agents and marines who had burst in when she had screamed at the top of her lungs. The incident had finally taught Thor his lesson about beaming into places unannounced. Sam knew that gleam in O'Neill's eye--Thor was in for the ribbing of his life when Jack caught up to him again. Sam had to draw on all her military discipline to keep from snickering when she thought about it now.
Then she needed her discipline for an entirely different reason when Jack snapped a letter-perfect salute. She knew he disliked wearing his dress uniform, but she thought he was simply the sexiest man she had ever laid eyes on.
General Hammond and General Ryan pinned his new insignia. The stars had a special sentimental value, because they were the ones that Hammond had received when he was promoted to Brigadier General. Sam thought the moment was just about perfect--her only regret was that her father wasn't here to see it. She wished he knew how happy they were.
The ceremony was a little more involved than promotion to lower ranks, but it was still brief. Afterwards there was a small reception. Teal'c took charge of Jamie to be sure he ate his cake neatly, while the others circulated. Already the boy had grown so much. He thought of Ry'ac at that age. His memories of Ry'ac's childhood were like a series of snapshots punctuating the long separations. The months and years passed by so quickly. One reason he was happy for his friend's new position was that Jack would be free to spend more time with Jamie while he was small.
Daniel stood quietly beside him. The passage of the years was on his mind as well. When they had first stepped through the stargate to Abydos and embarked on this incredible voyage, neither he nor Jack could have guessed what a path they would follow to reach this place. Now he had the sense that they were all starting on some new journey. He felt Sha're's presence and smiled, knowing that as soon as they had some privacy she would have a million and one questions.
V: Under the Stars
When they returned to the hotel, Jack stopped briefly at the concierge's desk. He turned around to find Jamie climbing up on a decorative fountain to see the goldfish swimming in the small pool. Jack got him down from there before he could fall in. A couple of women checking in were grinning and laughing. Jack reflected that there was nothing like a little kid to keep you from getting too full of yourself. He got Jamie up to the suite and into his play clothes.
The phone rang and Sam got it. After a brief conversation, she reported, "We got bumped off our flight, we won't be leaving until 2200h instead of first thing tomorrow!"
Teal'c suggested a movie, which was fine with Sirikat and Jamie. A while later Daniel took off, planning to show Sha're the Mall.
Sam asked, "What are we going to do this evening?"
"You'll see. Dress up."
"Dress up, hmmm?" She grinned. "I like surprises."
He took his purchases up the stairs. Sam slid the closet door and unzipped her garment bag. She decided on a blue floral dress and a lightweight white sweater. She got changed and looked for her purse to do her makeup.
It was gone. Sam distinctly remembered setting it on the sofa arm when she answered the phone earlier. Now there was nothing there. In sudden terror, she searched the room, opening drawers and looking behind things.
Jack came downstairs when he heard her rattling around. "Sam, what's the matter?"
"I can't find my purse! I know it was here, but it's disappeared!"
She seemed panicked. Jack couldn't imagine Sam Carter having kittens over a missing purse. He opened the TV cabinet and produced the handbag. "Sam, calm down. Jamie knocked it over while you were on the phone. I didn't want him writing on the wallpaper with your lipstick or anything!"
She took the bag, looking at it uncertainly.
"Sam? What's the matter? You look like you saw a ghost, and I don't mean Sha're."
"It was--this kind of odd details and discrepancies that gave away Fifth's mind games. I thought I was back there. I don't know that I'm not!"
"Com'ere." As he wrapped his arms around her, she was shaking. "Sam, I swear, he can't hurt you any more. I don't know how to convince you this is real, but it is. Look--it was my fault Fifth got stuck in that time trap, not yours. Do you think he'd be able to see it that way?"
"He m-made me say it wasn't my fault. He wanted me to lay it off on you. I never did that--not in so many words--but I would have, God help me!"
Jack pulled her down to the couch with him and held her. "So would anyone else, sooner or later. He read your mind, he knew what happened. He didn't need for you to confess to anything. It was all some big bullshit power trip. You know that, Sam."
It was all he could do to keep his voice sounding normal. He had sworn to kill that damned replicator and he kept coming up with better and better ways to do that. But the last thing Sam needed was for him to start ranting about tearing that bug apart into individual little microscopic Lego blocks.
"Oh, you must think I'm--"
"What? Sam, I'd be a pot calling the kettle black if I said one word to you. I was a hell of a handful after I got out of Iraq. You haven't done any of the crazy stuff I did."
"Night's still young," she said, her voice muffled in his shirt.
He gently turned her face up and kissed her softly. "It's gonna be all right. Just think about it. It would be more unreal if stuff didn't get moved, with a little kid around."
Sam had to admit the truth in that.
"Are you OK, Sam? I can cancel the reservations and we can stay in tonight if you'd rather."
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "No, I think I'm OK now. Getting out and doing something will probably help. Just give me a few minutes to wash my face."
Jack flipped through the TV channels while she was in the bathroom. He heard water running and then she was in there a while longer doing her makeup. When she came out there wasn't a sign that she'd been crying. She'd fixed her hair up pretty, so he figured he'd probably get his hand smacked if he touched it and messed it up. At least on the way out the door.
It had cooled off quite a bit late in the evening, but there were still a lot of people out and about. Georgetown was known for its nightlife. On the concierge's recommendation, Jack had made reservations at a quiet sidewalk café on a side street.
Sam looked around. "This is nice. It reminds me of Paris."
"Jacob was stationed in Europe?"
"We were at Ramstein for two years."
"So you probably speak German?"
She laughed, "No, I wish I did. Everyone there speaks English, and more of the people around were American than German! But we did get to travel all over Europe. Those were good times."
They were shown to their table. They decided what to order before they chose the wine, a Sauvignon Blanc that complemented the trout.
Jack said, "I didn't have the first idea that you'd ever lived in Europe."
"I never used to talk about it much. It used to hurt too much to think about my mom. Now, though, it's different. My niece wanted some pictures of her grandma, so I got those old albums down a few weeks ago. I'll show them to you, you'll laugh your head off at my pigtails."
He laughed, "I'll bet you were a cute ten-year-old."
She snickered, and doubted that "cute" would have been the word her parents would have used to describe her. She'd been a little hellion who hadn't owned a pair of jeans without the knees ripped out. Those days seemed so long ago now. "I was a brat."
They took their time over the meal, which really was delicious. Jack made himself a note to tip the concierge generously when he saw him again--his recommendation had been right on the money.
Jack mused, "I wonder what exactly the President meant by low-key."
Sam smiled, "Well, let's just say if someone were to ask me to go fishing I think I could meet him there."
He grinned, then almost as quickly dropped his gaze to his plate. "Sam, I don't think Hammond had a week's leave the whole time he was at the SGC."
"Yeah, I know," Sam said. "He never got away for longer than a weekend. That sucks. But you know what I mean, we can go places together as long as we aren't in the Springs where people know us. Maybe one of us ought to think about getting a weekend place in Colorado."
"Now there's an idea," Jack said. He would miss visiting his cabin two or three times a year--but looking across the table at Sam, he knew beyond a doubt that he had gained so much more than he had lost.
The waiter brought their dessert, effectively changing the subject. Sam savored a bite of white chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce. Jack had a flash of her and raspberries and white chocolate. She looked up when he snickered, and gave him a slow sultry smile. Damn, but after all this time they didn't need words. They ended up sitting there for an extra little while after the waiter returned his credit card before he could get up--and it was worth the embarrassment to see Sam smiling.
By then it was well after dark and the nightclubs were in full swing. The night was clear and pleasantly cool. The sidewalk was dark and tree-shaded, and there wasn't much traffic until they reached the corner. Jack put his arm around her as long as the shadows lasted.
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